Brick Pizza Ovens: [Ultimate Guide for Beginners]

Anyone can make pizzas at home. I mean, it’s basically flour, yeast, water, sauce, cheese, and toppings, right? So then, why don’t most homemade pies don’t even look nearly the same as what you get in your favorite pizzeria, let alone taste? The answer: brick pizza oven.

The rustic-style brick pizza ovens are what gives the pizza its trademark charred, smoky flavor and puffy crust. Brick ovens are fuelled by propane or natural gas, wood pellets, charcoal, and sometimes, a combination of pellets and charcoal. Besides pizzas and bread, brick ovens are an excellent tool for smoking and grilling briskets, steaks, veggies, and fish.

Thanks to the advancement of technology, brick ovens are no longer confined to pizza parlors. You can now find sleek and portable brick oven pizza makers in kitchens and backyards everywhere. As someone who has been using one for months, I promise you once you get accustomed to a wood-fired oven, there’s no going back.

In this article, I am going to share my acquired knowledge of brick ovens, including a step-by-step guide on how to make your own brick pizza oven. Keep reading…

How Does a Brick Pizza Oven Work?

Let’s start with the basics. Brick ovens are made of fire-proof brick.

The bricks are placed in a circular shape, with an opening in the middle for you to put your pizza. The bricks are arranged in a dome shape and surrounded by firewood that burns slowly over hours to create a smoky flavor in your food.

As it burns, heat rises through the vents and into the chamber where your pizzas are baking.

This is why brick ovens cook so quickly—the heat reaches right into their core and cooks them evenly on all sides at once, just like in a regular oven but much faster.

Depending on the size, build, and type of fuel used, brick ovens can easily reach temperatures of 800°F or more. It takes roughly 60-90 seconds to bake Neapolitan-size pizzas.

The only time-consuming part is getting the oven to the temperature at the beginning. Once it’s up, though, you can bake pizzas continuously for hours without having to worry about slowing down.

That said, using a brick oven takes a lot of skill and practice. You have to choose the right kind of fuel and constantly tend the fire to maintain the right temperature. It’s not a process that can be left up to chance.

I like the feeling of cooking with wood because it gives me a sense of connection to nature, but if you are looking for something quick and convenient, choosing a gas-fired brick oven would make more sense.

Brick Pizza Oven: A Detailed Guide

To give you a deeper understanding of how brick pizza ovens work and help you decide whether to invest in one, I have briefly explained the core aspects of brick ovens.

Brick Pizza Ovens

Size

Most people think of brick ovens as these large and imposing entities, but that’s not always the case. A pizza oven can be as small as a personal-sized grill or as large as a commercial pizza oven found in restaurants. A standard masonry oven size can range from 150-400 cubic feet with 19-22″ wide opening.

To give you a rough idea:

  • A semi-portable dome-shaped oven with 35″ x 39 internal dimensions will generally have a vault height of 16″, door width of 18″, and door height of 11″.
  • For a medium dome-shaped oven, the standard vault height is 22″, the door width is 18″, and the height is 14″.
  • For a large dome-shaped oven, approx. Vault height: 28″, door width: 22″, and door height: 18″.

You can also find custom-built brick or clay pizza ovens to fit your outdoor kitchen space and specific needs.

Fuel

Wood and Charcoal

Wood chips, logs, pellets as well as charcoals are the most common fuels for a pizza oven. Pellets are generally the most popular fuel type because they’re convenient to use and store.

Wood pellets are made of compressed wood fibers. The act of compression results in consistently shaped high-density pellets that burn hotter and more efficiently than logs.

Pellets can be used as a standalone fuel source or in combination with other types of fuel in your brick pizza oven. For example, you can use pellets as the primary source of heat and use charcoal briquettes to provide additional heat when needed.

Charcoal briquettes or hardwood logs can also be used as a substitute for wood pellets.

You can also use only charcoal to fire up your oven if you need higher temperatures (1000F+) and you wish to impart charcoal smoke into your food. I like to use charcoal in my Ooni Karu for cooking meat. But for pizzas and breads, I’d stick to my good old combination of mesquite and oak pellets.

Gas

Propane and natural gas are the recommended sources of fuel for gas pizza ovens. Gas tanks are easily accessible and convenient to use. All you need to do is connect the oven to the cylinder using an oven. Start the fire by clicking and turning the knob and use the heat control dial to control the flames.

In a blind taste test, most people would not be able to tell the difference between wood/charcoal-fired pizza and gas-fired pizza because the pizza gets cooked in a snap either way. So, it won’t stay in the oven long enough to soak up the smoky flavor.

So unless you have a penchant for building and stoking wood fire like me, don’t think twice and choose gas as your preferred fuel for your brick oven.

Temperature

The temperature of your brick pizza oven will depend on what kind of fuel you use and how efficiently it burns. As stated previously, wood pellets burn hotter than hardwood logs because they contain less moisture content.

On an average, brick pizza ovens can reach up to 800F, while certain commercial ovens can go as high as 1200F.

Cost

It depends on the size and brand. Small and portable wood-fired ovens can cost over $300-2500, standard fixed can set you back for approx $3500-5000, and large industrial-grade ovens can cost up to $10000

If you want to build a brick oven, you need a budget of at least $1000 for a standard-sized oven.

Disclaimer: take all these estimates with a generous pinch of salt.

Advantages of Brick Pizza Ovens

The advantages of using a brick pizza oven transcend far beyond vintage aesthetics and authentic taste. Brick ovens are:

  • Time-saving as one pizza barely takes a minute to bake to perfection.
  • Ideal for bulk baking for the above-mentioned reason.
  • You can double as a smoker.
  • It can be used for making a variety of meat, fish, and veggie preparations, as well as for baking cakes and cookies.
  • Suitable for areas where electricity is scarce or/and for individuals living off the grid.
  • It’s super cool.

Disadvantages of Brick Pizza Ovens

Despite all the things I adore about brick ovens, they are not without their disadvantages. For instance:

  • Brick ovens require a lot of maintenance, as they are susceptible to cracking and crumbling apart if not used properly.
  • They are difficult to transport and set up.
  • It can be very expensive to purchase or even build from scratch. The average cost of building a medium-sized brick oven can set you back approx. $1000.

It will be somewhat cheaper if you have easier access to the construction materials. If you are planning to use wood or coal to fire up the oven, you will also have to invest in a chimney and venting system.

  • Building and maintaining a fire in wood/charcoal-fired ovens is not a cakewalk for everyone. It takes time, effort, practice, and experience to master the art of baking in a brick oven.

How to Start a Fire in a Brick Pizza Oven?

If you choose wood or coal to fire up the oven, you will need to start a fire in it. The first step is to prepare the wood or coal for use in your oven by cutting them into smaller pieces of about 1-1/2 inches each (or simply use wood pellets).

Once you have done that, pile up the pieces into a pyramid shape on top of the fire bed inside your oven (if there is none).

Light up the base of this pyramid using either kindling or newspaper and wait for the flames to spread across all layers. You will have to occasionally stir the fire so that it doesn’t go out. Once your pyre is burning steadily, place some more wood or coal on top of it to increase the temperature inside your oven.

As for gas-fired ovens, follow the steps below:

  • Connect the hose from the tank to the burner of your oven
  • Slowly open the gas cyliner’s gas flow.
  • Push in and slowly turn the dial anti-clockwise for 5 seconds until you hear a click and see the flame
  • Hold it for another 5 seconds before you release
  • Use the dial to crank the heat up or down as needed

How to Build a Brick Pizza Oven? – 10 Crucial Steps

You can build a brick pizza oven in your backyard or on your patio, even if you don’t have any experience with construction work. Trust me; it will be a fun project to do with your kids in the summer.

This option is often the most budget-friendly since it does not require any fancy tools or supreme masonry skills. However, if you lack the necessary experience or expertise in bricklaying, it may be better to hire someone who knows what they’re doing.

If you have decided to DIY it, here’s an outline of the steps for building a brick pizza oven:

Step 1:

First of all, you need to find a site on which to build your brick pizza oven. Choose a spot that is level and stable enough for the oven. Ideally, it should be built on a concrete surface. If this isn’t possible, you can use a base of sand and gravel to support the oven.

Step 2:

Once you have decided on your brick pizza oven location, mark off the area and start digging. Looser soil composition will allow you to dig deeper.

Step 3:

Next, build a base for your oven, usually made from concrete or bricks. This will help with stability and temperature control.

Step 4:

Next, you can build the walls of your oven using firebricks that are placed one on top of another in an alternating pattern until they reach the desired height.

Step 5:

Then, fill all gaps between the bricks with mortar before allowing it to cure completely.

Step 6:

Once the mortar has hardened, you can begin to build your pizza oven inside. Place bricks or concrete blocks on the floor of your oven in a circular pattern, leaving some space around them for wood placed underneath.

You can use any type of heat-resistant materials, including bricks or cement blocks, for this purpose.

Step 7:

The next step is to place your oven liner on top of the bricks or concrete blocks. This will help protect the bricks from getting damaged while also making it easier for you to clean them later on.

Step 8:

If you are going to use fire or coal as fuel, you can now proceed with building the actual chimney or dome. You can either use brick or concrete blocks for this purpose, depending on your preference.

Step 9:

Once all the bricks are laid out, you can then use a cement mixture to fill in any gaps that may be present between them. This will help prevent any smoke from leaking out of the oven and keep your food from tasting like ash or soot.

If you want to bake with gas, first, install a gas burner (preferably 15000 BTU or higher) and an easy-push ignition system. Then use a flexible hose (1/2″) and a standard G30/G31 pressure regulator to connect the propane tank or LPG bottle to the back of the oven.

Step 10:

Now that your chimney is finished being built, it’s time to add some insulation for additional protection against heat loss.

For this, you can either use ceramic fiber blankets or go down the old-school route with an insulation mortar. It’s a mixture of perlite or vermiculite and cement in a 5:1 ratio. This mixture is used insulating under the oven hearth.

How to build a brick pizza oven | Silverline Tools

Alternatively, you can use firebrick ovens directly above the oven foundation and build the heart directly above the firebricks.

Besides Pizza, What Can You Make in a Brick Pizza Oven?

A brick pizza oven can be used for a multitude of foods besides pizza. You can bake all kinds of bread and pastries and even cook steaks, stuffed chicken, turkey, and fish. I often use my oven to smoke briskets and baby back ribs, and the results are worth bragging about. The options are practically limitless.

Last Sunday, I baked a San Sebastian/burnt Basque cheesecake in my brick oven. In short, you can easily whip up a three-course meal in your brick oven for your family and guests.

Brick Pizza Oven FAQs

Can you build a pizza oven with normal bricks?

No, you need firebricks to build a brick pizza oven. Firebricks are designed for high temperatures and will not crack or break when exposed to extreme heat.

Normal bricks are not designed for this purpose and would break apart if used in a brick pizza oven. Firebricks can withstand up to 3272 degrees F, whereas regular bricks are fire-resistant up to 2200 degrees only.

Can you build a pizza oven with normal bricks?

No, you need firebricks to build a brick pizza oven. Firebricks are designed for high temperatures and will not crack or break when exposed to extreme heat.

Normal bricks are not designed for this purpose and would break apart if used in a brick pizza oven. Firebricks can withstand up to 3272 degrees F, whereas regular bricks are fire-resistant up to 2200 degrees only.

Are outdoor pizza ovens dangerous?

Anything that deals with high flames is dangerous. In fact, outdoor pizza ovens are much safer than regular ovens because they are away from your home.

Even if the fire gets uncontrollable, the worst thing that can happen is that it will crack. As long as you keep a close eye on the fire and ensure it has cooled down properly after use, you will be fine.

Is brick oven pizza thin crust?

The thickness of the dough depends more on the flour you are using for your dough recipe. A brick oven is the perfect kind of oven for baking thin-crust Neapolitan or NY-style delicate crust to perfection.

The leopard spots or charred marks around the edges you notice on a classic Neapolitan crust can only be achieved in a brick oven.

How long does it take to heat up a brick pizza oven?

It usually takes about an hour for medium to large brick pizzas to reach the right temperature for baking pizzas. Smaller ovens can be preheated in 30-40 minutes.

How to clean the inside of a brick oven?

By far, the easiest way to clean your pizza oven is by using a stainless steel scrubber or a copper-wire oven brush water. Use the brush or scrubber to scrape off any debris, then use a damp sponge to wipe down the inside of your pizza oven.

Do not use harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners on your brick ovens, as they can damage your oven.

You can also use baking soda and vinegar for weekly deep cleaning. First, make a paste with baking soda and water and slather it on the inside of the oven. Leave it overnight and wipe it down with a damp cloth. Finally, spray it with vinegar and wipe it down.

In Conclusion – Are Outdoor Brick Pizza Ovens Worth It?

In my opinion, yes! They are versatile, and a lot of fun to use, and people love them. You can cook pizzas in them, but you can also make breads, meat, pastries, and more. It’s a great way to add ambiance and flare to your backyard or patio.

As long as you are fine with the cost and the extra work that comes with using one, it will be a great investment. Plus, the pizzas and steaks made in a brick oven taste amazing!

Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson

Tim Anderson is the founder of pizzapeopleaz® and has been in the pizza industry since 1998. Since then, his mission has been to make a pizza lover's guy into a personal pizzaiolo. And each year, he continues to help more people with Pizza chemistry, pizza Crust, pizza oven, and oven troubleshooting.

2 thoughts on “Brick Pizza Ovens: [Ultimate Guide for Beginners]”

  1. Tim
    I have a question about building a pizza oven on top of a Precast pipe 48 in, 42 in off the ground. Do you think it would get too hot for the Precast pipe?

    Dan

    Reply
    • It is possible that building a pizza oven on top of a precast concrete pipe could cause the pipe to become too hot and potentially damage it. It is important to ensure that the pipe is able to withstand the high temperatures that the oven will generate and consider using a different material for the base if necessary.

      Consult with a structural engineer or manufacturer to determine the maximum temperature the pipe can withstand.

      Reply

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